Tag Archives: success

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Online coaching now available for small business owners

Have you noticed what I’ve noticed about small business owners?

In coaching small business owners since 2003, two things stand out for me…

1)  The most challenging issue they face is balancing their work with the other things they want to do in their lives

and

2)  They nearly all recognise the benefits of having a business coach but are often reluctant to commit resources to engaging one.

My desire to help as many people as possible achieve ‘balance at work’ led me to create a new way of delivering the benefits of coaching to anyone willing to commit some time each week to achieving their goals.

Click here to review our NEW ONLINE COACHING PROGRAM.

As always, I value your feedback.

And I also appreciate your help in letting others know about the program!

PS. IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

The program runs for 10 weeks and can be started at any time.

Online small business coaching is just $220 for the full program.

Most of us will probably spend that much on coffee in the next 10 weeks – I promise this is much better value for money!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How’s your balance?

A recent conversation with Thea Foster of Added Value Corporation prompted this article. Thanks for the inspiration, Thea!

We all know that to run a successful business, department or team requires consistent achievement across several disciplines.  Typically we need to perform well across finance, marketing, sales, service delivery, planning, technology and people.  And it’s quite common to see one or more areas get more attention, while others are neglected.  Thea calls this ‘playing favourites’ and most of us do it.

To find out if you play favourites, make a list of the outstanding issues in each aspect of your work (use the list above as headings if you like).  If you have a good balance across your scope of management, you will have roughly the same number of outstanding issues under each heading.

Perhaps you found one or two areas with a longer list of outstanding issues?

My prediction is that those are the areas of management you feel least comfortable handling.  It’s human nature to tackle the easy stuff first.  What comes easily to us will naturally be attended to first.  Unfortunately, that often means a log-jam of other issues that build up and stop us from moving forward.

You are not alone.

‘John’ is just great at finding new prospects (marketing), converting them to clients (sales) and providing them with all they could ever expect (service delivery).  You could say these activities are his favourites.  What John enjoys less is budgeting (finances, planning), dealing with IT (technology) and involving his staff in the business (people).  John knows these things are all important, but for him it’s more fun to be out there talking with clients.

Have I just described someone you know?

Or you might know ‘Jenny’.  Jenny has elegant systems in place to keep track of every action (technology, service delivery, people, planning) and every dollar (finances).  What she doesn’t like to do is tell the world about the amazing services she can offer (marketing, sales).

Both John and Jenny are not realising their full potential because the unaddressed issues are holding them back.

Here are the steps for improving your balance

1. Identify your ‘favourites’ – the tasks that you find easier than others activities.

2. Decide whether you are prepared to spend less time on your favourites so you can spend more time getting on top of issues in other areas.

3. If yes, identify your priorities, allocate the time and start taking some action now.

4. If you prefer to continue working on your favourite activities – which is where you will be happiest and most productive, take the time to identify what you should get someone else to do for you and how.

What are you avoiding right now?  What’s it costing you?

Once you’ve been through the exercise above, change will only happen if you make it happen.  Finding a coach or mentor to guide, support and keep you accountable will certainly help you to reach a better balance – sooner.

Remember to let me know how you intend to improve your balance.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 4: People management

This is the fifth article in a series based on data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, collected in the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study.  See our blog for previous articles in this series.

The ability to lead, motivate and inspire others is another skill that was identified as being critical to success, yet in short supply among local mid to senior level managers.

In the previous article, we looked at the importance and definition of strategic thinking.  A related basic people management skill is to ensure your staff have the right skills and personal attitudes to deliver on your business strategy.

To be successful as a leader, managers need to be willing to explore and use different ways to:

  • Identify and hire top performers,
  • Inspire and motivate people in the business, and
  • Support others to develop and extend their skills.

Plenty of information exists on how to manage people by applying active listening, coaching and delegation techniques, as you will find if you do an internet search on any of these terms.

What is harder to find out is how to negotiate the more  subtle aspects of keeping people engaged and committed.

This is not ‘book learning’ but instead comes down to being self-aware and sensitive to the preferences and needs of others.  The real skill is in knowing when you need to get help and learn more, both about yourself and about others.

‘Employee loyalty, motivation and trust in the organisation all suffer if leaders and managers are careless about the way they treat people.’

Where do you think you stand?  Could the way you treat people be affecting your bottom line?

Hint:  The answer is always  ‘Yes’ – but the impact may be positive or negative in your organisation!

We provide our clients with specialised tools and coaching for both the practical aspects of people management and f0r developing the self-awareness required to be able to manage people well.

Which part of people management could you use some help with right now?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 2: Problem solving and decision making

This is the third of six articles inspired by data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, from the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study.  See our blog for previous articles, posted on 2 and 9 May 2011.

The Kelly study identified problem solving and decision making together as a critical skill that is in short supply among mid to senior level managers.

In the current environment of uncertainty and rapid change, the ability to solve problems and make appropriate choices are essential for:

  • giving high quality, appropriate and timely advice to clients,
  • having a reputable, sustainable and profitable practice and
  • complying with regulatory requirements.

What do we mean by problem solving and decision making?

The ability to do both these things well depends on the degree to which a person possesses all of the following qualities:

  • A tendency to logically analyse facts and problems, as well as examining the potential difficulties of any plan, balanced by –
  • A willingness to use intuition in decision making (especially important when there are a lot of variables that can’t be analysed objectively);
  • The desire to have the authority to make decisions and to take responsibility for the outcomes while also being –
  • Prepared to collaborate with others who may have valuableinformation that needs to be taken into account.

How can you build on your natural strengths in this area?

  • Uncover your strengths, as well as areas for improvement.
  • Step outside your comfort zone by taking on greater challenges.
  • Practice!  See our free worksheet ‘Are you sitting (too) comfortably?’ to get you started.

Like to know more about your strengths (and your team’s) and how to develop them further?  Contact us to organise an assessment and/or coaching.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How referable is your business? (continued)

Following on from our article last week – ‘How referable is your business?’ – see below for a further two tips on how you can build up your referral business.

Step 3 – Acknowledge your clients’ fear and make them look good

Your client may often wonder whether the referral process will take up too much of their time and whether their reputation will be hurt if you don’t follow up properly. Think about the client’s needs first, not yours. The referral process needs to reflect well on them and make them look good.

To overcome these fears, explain your referral process and the outcomes of any introductions. This could include following up referred clients promptly and letting the referee know how it progresses, building their confidence in the process. A successful outcome with a referred client strengthens the existing client relationship and should lead to more referrals.

Step 4 – Get the client to articulate your value

At the end of every client meeting ask the client to articulate the value they’ve received. If they say things like ‘I never thought of that before’ or ‘thanks, that’s a great idea’, this is a perfect trigger to have a conversation about who else may benefit from your expertise.

Importantly, your client needs to tell you about the value they’re receiving so they ‘sell’ themselves into the idea of referring you. You can’t badger them into agreeing with you about the value you think they’ve received!

The Bottom Line

There are multiple, ongoing opportunities to talk with your clients about referrals. Examples include when you solve or prevent a problem, when your client buys from you and when you follow up. The key is to look for ways to provide value to your clients and to have a systematic client contact and referral process that your business is comfortable with and that your clients trust.

If this is underpinned by an awareness of what your clients think about your service, then you will have ‘earned the right’ to have the referral conversation and you will be closing the gap between the number of clients who currently refer business to you, and the number that could be.

You may want to visit www.customerreturn.com.au to complete a 2 minute Referrability Self Evaluation. Nathan can be contacted on 0410 471 200 to provide a free 30 minute debrief valued at $150 of your results and suggestions for how to build a more referable business.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Four simple questions to bring you more referrals

A couple of weeks back, I was eating lunch with a business colleague I’ve known for years when she asked “What is it exactly that you can do for my clients?”

We talk all the time about why ‘referral clients’ are the best clients.  We know why we want them and having clients referred to you is a whole lot easier than cold calling, don’t you think?

Like you, I know we have to be worthy of referrals and prepared to ask for them, but there’s also another step that is often overlooked. The clue is in the question above – a question we might be too embarrassed to ask because we believe we should already know the answer. You know it’s true!

Is it possible your clients and centres of influence could be thinking the same question about you, but are too embarrassed to ask?

Here are four simple questions to help you clarify what your referrers need to know about what you do before they can give you quality referrals. The answers are mine, for Balance at Work.  I hope you can use them as a model your own “Referrer Education Program”.

1.  Who do we help?

Established, professional and successful organisations and individuals who are ready to take their performance to the next level. Our clients:

  1. Care about people;
  2. Made poor choices in the past;
  3. Want to change;
  4. Are open to new ideas and
  5. Committed to taking action.

2.  What do we do for them?

We make managing and leading easier with simple tools and programs that deliver benchmarked performance excellence for:

  • Hiring and promoting staff;
  • Developing and coaching individuals and teams;
  • Measuring and rewarding performance;
  • Managing and developing careers;
  • Planning succession.

3.  How do we do it?

We make people management best practices easily accessible and affordable for any organisation with staff.

  • Predictive, flexible and benchmarked online employee assessments. We pick winners and help our clients keep them.
  • Automated online recruitment processes.  Any size organisation can select staff economically and efficiently with our system.
  • Real coaching for real people and real teams. We listen. We don’t try to push clients into one standard model.
  • Advice based on years of experience, observation, study and continuous learning. We remove the guesswork and uncertainty.
  • Referrals to specialists who meet our clients’ unique requirements. When we don’t have the expertise they need, we send them to someone who does.

4.  Why should they choose to work with us?

As one client told us recently: “You do something others don’t do and you do it extremely well”.  We offer:

  1. Excellence, expertise and experience that make a difference; and
  2. We won’t waste their time, energy or money.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  When you have your answers, let us know. We may be able to refer you!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Looking for fresh ideas? Ask your staff!

The people working for you are an often untapped source of ideas.  Companies such as Google and Apple are renowned for their ability to use this resource.

Are you making the most of yours?

Tomorrow I’m facilitating an annual strategic planning day for a client I’ve been coaching since 2004.  As an established and successful general insurance brokerage with a stable team, you might assume there’s not a lot that’s new to discover.  Yet this firm continues to innovate and improve, based on the input of all the team.

There are two main reasons:  Firstly, they are in the fortunate position of having a team that are all inventive, as measured by their Harrison Assessment profiles.   This means that each team member is both experimenting (with a tendency to try new things and new ways of doing things) and persistent (with a tendency to be tenacious despite encountering significant obstacles).  Secondly, they actually ask for – and listen to – input!

Even if you don’t know all the natural strengths of your team, finding out what they think about how you do business and what could be improved is easy.  This is how we’ve recently helped three businesses to do just that:

1.  Structured interviews with selected staff followed by a briefing for the partners on the key concerns and suggestions.

2.  A simple 3-question email eliciting (anonymous) feedback for the principal on a specific issue.

3.  An online survey with written and verbal reports and recommendations to the management team.  (See this post for more info.)

The overwhelming response in each case was that staff were very pleased to be asked and more than happy to share their ideas.  Using an intermediary such as Balance at Work to facilitate the process can make it more comfortable as a first step towards more direct involvement of your team in innovation and improvement.

Tip:  Asking is the easy part.  Unless you are prepared to put in the hard work of really listening and trying new ways of working – please don’t bother asking.

As always, I’d like to know what you think.  Please share your thoughts below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How will 2011 be different for you?

In the previous update, I encouraged you to take a look at what you’d achieved in 2010.  Many readers were pleasantly surprised!

It can be very empowering to put aside the everyday demands on your time and reflect on what’s going well – and not so well.  As you prepare to have a brilliant 2011, this is a good time to take stock of what you would like to change in the new year.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to grab a notebook and write down your regular tasks, performance standards and behaviours under the following categories:

  1. Should be doing less
  2. Could be doing more
  3. Want to stop doing
  4. Would like to start doing

With this list, you now have a starting point for planning 2011.  Already, you have guide to what your goals for the year might be.

To help you refine your goals for maximum business impact and to keep you on track to achieving them, consider engaging a coach.  I find having someone to listen, guide and keep me accountable is invaluable.

You will be more successful working with a coach you know, like and trust.

Here are some questions to ask prospective coaches:

  • What experience to they have? Length of time coaching, industries, types of organisations, specific issues.
  • How is the coaching structured? What tools and methods do they use?  How do they measure progress? Are there alternative programs to meet your individual needs?
  • Is the coaching CPD accredited? Coaching could contribute to your annual CPD point requirements.
  • Who else have you worked with? Ask for the contact details of previous clients.

If all the boxes are ticked and you feel positive about working with the coach, 2011 could be your best year yet!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Three things you should know about yourself

…and anyone you employ!

Talking to a client yesterday about the potential to promote a staff member, I was reminded (again) of the power of awareness of our strengths and limitations.  Whether you’re hiring new staff or developing existing staff, positive change has to start from a point of knowledge and acknowledgement.

Even if you have a strong intention to improve, unless you know what’s holding you back it’s very hard to move forward.  But how do you find out?

One way is by objective assessment.  Here are three examples of  important leadership competencies we can measure for you: 

1. Strategic Judgement = the tendency to have a balance of traits necessary to discern pertinent information and formulate an effective strategy. 

This competency is made up of essential traits: Analytical, Analyses Pitfalls, Research/Learning, Intuitive, Collaborative, Self-Improvement, Systematic; desirable traits: Experimenting, Persistent, Certain, Pressure Tolerance, Optimistic, Planning, Self-Acceptance, Relaxed, Open/Reflective; and traits to avoid: Blindly Optimistic, Impulsive, Skeptical, Defensive, Dogmatic, Easily Influenced, Fast but Imprecise, Precise but Slow.

2. Interpersonal Skills = the tendency to have a balance of traits that relate to effective interaction with others. 

This competency consists of essential traits: Diplomatic, Helpful, Optimistic, Outgoing, Assertive, Frank, Influencing, Self-Acceptance, Self-Improvement, Warmth/Empathy, Tolerance of Bluntness; desirable traits: Flexible, Collaborative, Open/Reflective, Manages Stress Well, Relaxed; and traits to avoid: Defensive, Blunt, Dogmatic, Harsh, Dominating, Authoritarian, Permissive.

3. Provides Direction = the tendency to manifest the traits necessary for a leadership role. 

This is a combination of essential traits: Want to Lead, Influencing, Takes Initiative, Wants Challenge, Enthusiastic, Self-Improvement, Planning, Persistent, Pressure Tolerance, Public Speaking, Self-Acceptance; and desirable traits: Experimenting, Flexible, Frank, Handles Conflict, Helpful, Precise, Organised, Relaxed, Risking, Systematic, Tolerance of Bluntness, Warmth/Empathy.

Do you already know all this about yourself and your team? 

Would it be useful for you to have this information before making recruitment, coaching and promotion decisions?  What else would you like to know?

It’s surprising, but we can get all that information – and much more! – out of one short online test.  If you haven’t tried the assessment for yourself yet, it may be time to click here to register for a free trial.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Should you be asking THAT question?

When interviewing job candidates, we all have favourite questions we always like to ask.  The effectiveness of some of these questions is questionable, to say the least.  

As candidates, I’m sure we’ve all heard some screamers. I thought asking a person what car they drive was pretty poor, until someone told me they’d been asked “If you were a car, what sort of car would you be?”.  This question would give a good indication of the person’s imaginative powers, but little or no information about their ability to do the job.  

Another favourite is “Where do you want to be in five years’ time?”.  If you have heard that one before (who hasn’t?) you can imagine how common it is and how easy for a candidate to prepare an impressive answer for when you ask them!  

The ability to do the job, along with attitude, are the key things you’re looking for in your intervew questions. Any question that does not give you more information on ability or attitude is a distraction from the main game and may even land you in hot water.  

Here are some examples of interview questions which may be asked with the best of intentions but may be inappropriate:  

1. Where did you grow up?

2. How old are your children?

3. When did you finish high school?

4. What does your wife/husband do for a living?

5. How long do you plan to work before you retire?

If you have asked any of these, or similar, questions in the past, my advice is to consider a new approach to how you interview. We will be talking about the traps to avoid in our next webinar on 25 August. Register here to learn more: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/917745616

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Wondering what your team’s thinking?

Those who attended our webinar ‘How to Make Your Good Team Great’ last week already know about our ‘Team Health Check’.  (And with our special offer to webinar participants, their requests are coming in fast!)   The Team Health Check has been designed to give you a snapshot of how things are in your team.   This is just the beginning of a process that will take your team to greater effectiveness.  You will get: 

  • An anonymous online survey for all your team (click here for a preview);
  • A written analysis of the survey results;
  • One hour debrief with me that will result in
  • An action plan for your team development.

 

 If your team could be more productive, this service is for you!   

Running a small business, communication within the team is just as important as it is within a business of hundreds of staff.  

Whilst we have many mechanisms for communicating on a regular basis, I felt it important to allow some anonymous feedback within the team, even for me. I asked Susan Rochester to co-ordinate the process to ensure that we had an impartial and confidential collation of the results.   

Susan responded quickly with a summary that allowed me to provide meaningful feedback to all of the team. Our Practice Manager was able to provide feedback for the whole team and also further understand the personalities within the team.

 This made the management process easier for myself and the whole team. Each member of the team gained insights into their own behaviours and effectiveness within the team.  The result has been a greater understanding of each other within the team.

I am looking forward to doing it again soon and expect to do so at least once per year. I recommend using Susan to assist you in your business in this way.    

Bernard FehonCFP™ | Principal Financial Planner | Tactical Solutions   

Please call Susan today to set up your survey.